Field of Study for High School
What it Means to Study the Core Curriculum
This question is often asked by non-Americans in job applications. It can be confusing for them: What field should I study in high school? Weren’t all taking general education classes?
Technically, no, but high schools in America operate under a Core Curriculum. A school’s core curriculum is a list of courses all students must take and pass before they can be promoted to higher grades. American high schools have a minimum number of courses that you must take before you can graduate. The four core subject areas of Social Studies, Math, English Language Arts, Science, or Science will be included in a student’s “field of study”.
High schools will usually focus on one core subject in each standard year of high school (grades 9-12). High schools are more flexible than middle and elementary schools. They will often offer many optional courses in each of the core subjects, as opposed to having a set of classes that meet their school’s academic requirements. To earn a diploma in a particular field of study, a student will need to take the classes required by their high school.
Some high schools in the United States will require students to earn additional credits for majoring in their chosen field of study. These subjects are usually computer science, world languages, and health physical education. Different schools may offer different areas of study, but most schools will offer a program that will satisfy most students’ academic needs. The hope is that they can transfer what they have learned to their postsecondary education.
However, electives are optional classes that students may take independently. Typically, a field of study does not include electives. Some electives may provide course credits that meet the school’s graduation requirements.
Field of Study in High School
High school students must take and complete certain courses or classes that they believe are essential. These classes are chosen for their ability to teach students the foundational knowledge and skills they will need in college and future careers.
Different schools offer different academic programs. Students might choose to study different subjects in high school. However, students are encouraged to pursue a subject that interests them and will help them to be successful in college.
Some schools offer a parallel academic curriculum that is different from the regular one. Theme-based academies almost always offer an academic program that is more in line with their particular expertise (e.g. a drama school might offer an academic program with a field of study in the theater), while internationally-inclined high schools might offer an International Baccalaureate, or IB, program that satisfies the international organization’s criteria for graduating.
Reforming the System
Every secondary school in the country has had to establish a graduation requirement that allowed all students to be able to complete rigorous education and earn a diploma. Each state passed its legislation which established a high school student’s field of study, minimum credit requirements, and many other details. These requirements were usually enforced in public high schools, but districts and schools have the option to modify or increase the requirements for graduation. Graduation requirements vary from one state to the next. Each state and school has different requirements. Different states require different courses or credits for core subjects, as well as different types of courses.
Graduation requirements have changed with the introduction of various legislations during the first few decades of the twenty-first Century. Mandatory courses, subjects in specific fields of study at high school, etc., were made mandatory. They were open to questioning and, eventually, reform. Many states, districts, schools, and universities were forced to adapt to the rapidly changing world. They enacted reforms to their graduation requirements to not only enhance academic excellence but also prepare students for adult life.
It meant that certain course requirements were rearranged or changed to meet the changing needs of the world. For example, some states made four years of English a mandatory requirement and increased the number of science, math, social studies credits to 4. Other classes that focus on computer science, such as programming and robotics were also added. Some schools may require students to take more than just credits. In some states, students must complete four years of math including Algebra II and higher courses.
These changes were all deemed to improve academic test scores, college readiness, and general knowledge. Students are now better prepared to take college-level courses. They also have more career options because they are smarter, better prepared, and better educated than before the reform.
Field of Study in High School: Is It Even Necessary?
Despite all the reforms, educators and education leaders are still questioning whether it is necessary, or even useful, to add more courses and requirements to students. Many education leaders and teachers believe that an increase in courses and subjects will not translate into more knowledge or improve skills acquisition. It is also doubtful that increasing or shifting graduation requirements in high school, or at the highest education levels, would make students better prepared for adulthood.
Instead, educators argue that states should be more focused on learning standards than course requirements. Learning standards are better than course requirements, which only count students’ attendance or rote memorization of facts. Learning standards are precise, concise, and precise descriptions of what students should know by the end of a course. Focusing on learning standards rather than course credit would help educators to reduce the stress in high schools and expand the study field for high school students.